Thursday, December 27, 2007

The next generation of tailors: Mutually assured succession

Pop quiz: How many tailors or cutters do you know under the age of 40? Not very many I imagine. In New York City, the Big Four - Raphael, Corvato, Nicolosi and Fioravanti - are in their 60s or 70s. The situation is similar in Los Angeles.

I was prompted to ponder this question by the winter issue of Menswear magazine which featured an article on Italian bespoke tailors in Rome, Turin, Palermo and Naples. One of the younger tailors featured in the article - Alessandro Martorana - is apparently thinking of opening an atelier in Los Angeles.

Planning for a market entry/expansion is usually a sign of a healthy and growing business but also fraught with risks. My advice for foreign, independent tailors seeking to establish a foothold in the American market is the following: think merger and acquisition (M&A) not initial public offering (IPO). What do I mean by this? The difference is simple: acquiring existing operations v. building from scratch. The M&A strategy is to partner and then acquire an existing US tailor's operations and customer list.

The key is focusing on US tailors who are close to retirement, which would appear to be the majority. More specifically, the strategy for the foreign independent is to find a US tailor whose cut and silhouette is similar or one that he can master and execute fairly easily.

Let's be clear here. The primary benefit for the foreign tailor is to acquire an existing clientele. This removes a huge barrier to success in new market entry, namely, where do I get my customers? The retiring US tailor also benefits from this arrangement. He can ensure that his legacy customers are not left stranded. Perhaps equally as important, he can also rest assured that his tailoring name and reputation will live on for at least another generation.

Take Martorana's planned foray into LA as an example. There are at least three top-notch tailors in LA: Giacomo Trabalza, Jack Taylor and Novex. Both Trabalza and Taylor are in their 80s and close to retirement. If I were Martorana, I would seriously consider approaching one of the three (most likely Trabalza) to entertain options.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Video tours: Huntsman and Charvet

Quote from Peter Smith, Huntsman's general manager: "We have our own silhouette at Huntsman, which is a very fitted garment. Our silhouette is a one button front. We cut a slightly longer coat with a natural shoulder."

[Original video no longer available]


An informative walk-through of this iconic Parisian shirtmaker with store manager Jean-Claudes Colban.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The rise and fall of natural shoulders

Certain men look good in nearly every imaginable cut/silhouette and shoulder treatment. These are rare men endowed with naturally fit and lean frames and half-square shoulders. Can the same be said for specific shoulder treatments (i.e. soft v. structured shoulders)? Is one shoulder the best-looking one for all men? Some declare the natural shoulder look to be the summum bonum of shoulder treatments. Every man, these advocates claim, will look good in a jacket with a natural, unpadded shoulder.

I think the reality is far more nuanced than this, as I lay out in this AskAndy thread on Neapolitan suits. Counterpoint: Examine this picture (courtesy of the The Sartorialist blog). Natural shoulders (on jackets) are indeed pleasing to the eye if your shoulders, anatomically speaking, are naturally even, fairly broad and squared off. If you miss one or more of those elements, the look may not be as pleasing as it could be (examine the left shoulder of the man in the picture above). Here's another example at a recent holiday party in NYC and an excellent AskAndy thread comparing natural v. padded shoulders.

In short, a soft, unpadded, natural shoulder is not a universal look that is advantageous to every man. How does one determine one's own suitability for the natural shoulder? Stay tuned as I'm tackling this very problem more systematically in my forthcoming book project.

Friday, December 21, 2007

How to tie a bow tie

I touched on the topic of tying necktie knots in an earlier entry. Thanks to a recent StyleForum thread, I'm linking to a couple of useful visual tutorials to tying bow ties in particular.

The first is a Washington Post slide show which is especially thorough and specific in its explanation.

The second is a short video clip illustrating how to tie bow ties with adjustable neck collars: [Original video no longer available]

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Giacomo Trabalza in 2008

I spoke with a close colleague of Trabalza today and it appears the lease on his current shop is set to expire sometime next year. Nothing is certain yet but lease renewals can be a dicey proposition for the lessee. I see four possible outcomes:
  • Renewal of lease with minimal increase in rent (suit prices stay the same)
  • Renewal of lease with significant increase in rent (suit prices go up)
  • Move to a new location
  • Retirement
I hope things turn out well but nonetheless I may want to accelerate my first order with this highly experienced tailor before one or more of the above events happen.

Sam Hober ties

This StyleForum thread discusses a bit of the history behind Sam Hober ties (formerly Mulberrywood) and David's approach to design and tiemaking. I was in Thailand back in September and we were supposed to meet for tea at the Oriental Hotel in Bangkok. Unfortunately, our schedules didn't cooperate. Perhaps next time!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Trouser sidetabs

In my quest for properly fitting trousers, I initially found it difficult to make sense of the seemingly myriad waistband options available for unbelted or beltless trousers. These included: Daks top, D-ring adjusters, button sidetabs, waistband level v. below-the-waistband positioning. What were these and what do they look like?

This LondonLounge thread contains the best photos of sidetabs that I have seen to date. For Daks top trousers in particular, check out this thread.